Attorney general agrees to spread Netanyahu indictment hearings over two weeks
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Sessions will end by eve of Yom Kippur

Attorney general agrees to spread Netanyahu indictment hearings over two weeks

Prime minister’s legal team had asked that proceedings be lengthened so they’d have time to present all of their defense arguments in 3 graft cases PM is facing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen as he was given the mandate to form a new government after general elections days earlier, at a press conference at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen as he was given the mandate to form a new government after general elections days earlier, at a press conference at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Sunday informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal team that he had agreed to their request that a pre-indictment hearing in three graft cases against the premier be spread out over two weeks, instead of being held over two days this week.

Netanyahu’s lawyers were scheduled to meet with Mandelblit on October 2 and 3 for a long-awaited hearing at which they would try to convince the attorney general not to go ahead with plans to charge the prime minister in the three separate criminal cases.

Under the new arrangement, only arguments regarding Case 4000, the most serious of the corruption cases against Netanyahu, entailing suspicion of bribery offenses among others, will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hearings for Case 1000 and Case 2000 will be held the following Sunday and Monday, with proceedings coming to an end by Yom Kippur eve, on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s lawyers had filed the request Thursday, claiming they need more time to present all of their arguments in the prime minister’s defense. That was the same day that Netanyahu had made a public appeal that the pre-indictment hearings be broadcast live, a request that Mandelblit rejected as “futile” and “without legal basis.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a conference in Airport City, outside Tel Aviv, on September 03, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s lawyers have only submitted a single page to Mandelblit ahead of the hearing instead of a comprehensive file laying out the Likud party leader’s defense.

On Thursday, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition for the pre-indictment hearing to be scrapped on the grounds that the short document made a mockery of the legal process.

Responding to Mandelblit’s rejection for a live hearing, Netanyahu called the decision “sad,” and said years of leaks about the case had turned it into a drumhead “court martial.”

In his request for the live broadcast Netanyahu had said it would counter “a deluge of biased, partial leaks,” from the investigations into him.

“The time has come for the public to hear everything. Including my side, in a complete and full manner — without mediators, without censorship and without distortions,” the prime minister said in a video posted online.

He did not say if he would be present for the hearing, which comes amid a months-long political gridlock with his chief rival, MK Benny Gantz, refusing to bring his Blue and White party into a unity government with Netanyahu’s Likud if the prime minister remains in office after indictments are filed.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, September 26, 2019. (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)

In February, Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, pending the hearing, on charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

Netanyahu denies all the allegations against him and has labeled them bids by his enemies to remove him from office, which he has held for a total of over 13 years, the longest in the state’s history.

Case 4000 involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site. That case includes a proposed bribery charge for both Netanyahu and Elovitch.

Another, Case 1000, involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors. Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust.

A third, Case 2000, revolves around accusations Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. In this case, Mandelblit will seek to charge the premier with breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery. Mozes underwent his own pre-indictment hearing last month.

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